A "temporary programming error at Visa Debit Processing Services " caused some 13,000 VISA pre-paid debit card holders to have incorrect transactions posted to their accounts, a story in CNN reports .
In one case, the "temporary programming error" allowed for a $23,148,855,308,184,500.00 purchase being posted to a customer's account - plus $15 in overdraft fees.
VISA said it would be removing the erroneous over charges and overdraft fees from affected customer accounts.
When this story came out, three thoughts crossed my mind. The first was that I guess VISA doesn't have any software upper bounds checks on transaction amounts or account balances to automatically catch problems like these.
Second, VISA must be planning for hyperinflation to occur since it allows at least 17 digits in the dollar field to exist. Does VISA know something the rest of us don't?
And finally, does VISA's use of the phrase "temporary programming error" imply that there are permanent programming errors - aka features - lurking about in their debit processing systems?
Robert N. Charette is a Contributing Editor to IEEE Spectrum and an acknowledged international authority on information technology and systems risk management. A self-described “risk ecologist,” he is interested in the intersections of business, political, technological, and societal risks. Charette is an award-winning author of multiple books and numerous articles on the subjects of risk management, project and program management, innovation, and entrepreneurship. A Life Senior Member of the IEEE, Charette was a recipient of the IEEE Computer Society’s Golden Core Award in 2008.